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An Unlikely Pair

Boo and Ade sit next to the fence with their backs facing the house. They sit side-by-side like mirror images, ears up, shoulders straight, resting on their bums. They are an unlikely pair. Boo is a fifteen-year-old black cat and Adriana is a five-year-old white dog. Together, they smash every stereotype and cliché I’ve ever heard about the rocky relationship between cats and dogs. They’re watching something through the chainlink fence, something I can’t see. But I trust it’s there, and I trust they’ll kill it.

I also trust in the evening when I go to the basement, I’ll find their trophy. Over the past few weeks, they’ve left me lizards, mice, moles, birds, and chipmunks. They leave these dead things as presents, right in front of the stairs so that I can’t possibly miss them. Occasionally, they give me organs or limbs, such as a furry tail or a liver, perfectly intact but grotesquely separated from its owner. I always feel so conflicted. Deep down inside I am touched because I know this is their version of a thank you card, yet at the same time I have to choke back gags.

Boo and Adriana weren’t always so close. During Ade’s first four years, Boo didn’t waste his time on her. For one thing, their personalities were vastly different. Boo is the epitome of cool; he’s black and sleek with ultra-smooth mannerisms. On the other hand, until about six months ago, Adriana still acted like a perpetual goofball who ransacked rooms within minutes and didn’t understand personal space. She’s matured a lot recently, and he noticed.

Boo’s brothers were another reason he wasn’t always close with Adriana. Last spring, three black cats lived at the Farnival. They were inseparable, but now, Boo is the only one left. Goo died of old age in early summer, and Fuzz simply disappeared during autumn, when the leaves were just starting to fall from the trees. The last time I saw Fuzz he was in a forest drenched in yellow. For a long time, I hoped he’d return, even had dreams of him showing up at the tree line as quietly as he left. Eventually, I had to let go.

It took Boo two weeks to let go of Fuzz. I’ve never seen an animal so clearly grieve for another before. We’ve lost several elder pack members over the years, but the remaining dogs always acted with more curiosity than sadness. Even when Goo died, Boo seemed to confront it with the same grace as most animals confront death. He simply moved on. But when Fuzz disappeared, he acted completely different.

Through my office window, I’d watch his thin silhouette jog to the bottom of the yard. Then he’d spend thirty minutes pacing back and forth across our fenced half-acre, calling and calling for Fuzz. Boo cried several times a day for fourteen days straight. His grief broke my heart, and we considered…considered adopting another cat. But then, Boo discovered Adriana, and he stopped crying for a brother who never showed up.

I first noticed Boo and Ade’s blossoming relationship when I caught them napping on the same dog bed. In the beginning, they acted tentative towards each other and occupied opposite ends. Boo mostly pretended like Ade didn’t exist, while Ade glanced sideways every few seconds, as though any minute he might break out his razor-sharp claws. It’s happened before. The dogs have scars to prove it. But as they began to trust each other, they moved from opposing ends to the center.

Now, Boo naps sprawled over Adriana’s ribcage or crawled into a noodle against her stomach. Now, he allows her to clean his ears, and Ade lets him nuzzle her snout. On occasion, when they nap, some sound startles Adriana. She’ll jump up and send Boo flying in the air. He lands with grace and an indignant meow. But on cold winter days or rainy spring afternoons, they sleep next to each other for hours.

At some point, Boo started looking for Adriana during the middle of the night. A few nights a week, after his midnight haunts, he creeps through the doggie door, then pitter-patters down the hallway. In the bedroom doorway, he meows for Adriana. I don’t know how she answers, because she’s under the covers and doesn’t make a sound. But, when he determines she’s there, he tunnels underneath the sheets until he finds her. Ade spends a few minutes sniffing him, and he spends another minute cleaning her fur. Then, they settle around each other in a shape that reminds me of the traditional yin-yang symbol, white spooned against black. We all sleep cocooned together until dawn.

Ade outweighs Boo by thirty pounds, but in their hunting poses at the edge of the spring-bright grass, he looks like her shadow. I realized their relationship had reached next-level status when I first saw them hunting together, a recent but now frequent activity. It’s, by far, the most conclusive evidence that they’ve moved beyond sharing body heat, beyond coexisting in the same space. Now, they are choosing to spend time with each other outside of the house. Despite all their differences and all the stereotypes, these two animals are friends.

Is Ade becoming more cat or is Boo becoming more dog? If I had to guess it’d be the former. Ade is as insecure as he is confident. Besides, she’s probably in awe of his athletic efficiency, especially at killing things. And he must, in his own aloof feline way, be proud of her patience and size. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, their relationship is on equal ground, maybe they accept each other because of their differences.

That evening I walk down the basement steps and in the center of the landing is a frog without a leg, a thank you card from an unlikely pair.

Strange Bedfellows

DSC_0423(Tony and Boo; as you can tell, it’s hard to get a shot of them together and still)

I’ve talked about Boo on this blog before. He’s the deadliest of our three black felines, a twelve-year-old lethal hunter that leaves critter carcasses spread across the property.

Even though foster dogs are always coming and going at the Farnival, Boo’s never had problems; normally, he just swats the overly interested canines in the maw hard enough to leave bloody claw marks and the discussion is over.

But Boo has made a friend, and they are the unlikeliest of bedfellows. Lately, Tony – our twelve-week-old, happy-go-lucky foster puppy and Boo, our aloof murdering feline have become buds.

Their friendship started on the trails behind the house, or at least that’s when I noticed it. Whenever we were walking in the woods and Tony saw Boo, he’d bolt towards him like he just spied a rock star, kissing and jumping, tail whipping back and forth. But instead of swatting him, Boo would leap away, find a high spot on a tree, and rest until T-bone discovered a leaf, stick, or other dog to distract his short attention span. I rationalized – at first – that Boo let it go down because he was surprised.

Now, I’m beginning to believe that our mercenary feline enjoys the adoration. I’ve watched Tony act like a groupie around Boo time and time again and waited for Boo to teach T-bone a lesson about personal space – as he’d done to the multitude of other dogs that have lived here – but he never does.

In fact, Boo doesn’t even leap away when Tony molests him anymore. Instead, he sits there, stretching his lean, graceful neck, trying to look all cool while an excited clumsy puppy licks out his ears like a motorized Q-tip.

On more than one occasion, I’ve even caught them together in the house, Boo sitting on the footstool, gently swatting at Tony’s head while the puppy leaps at him.

Watching these strange couplings evolve is one of the best parts of fostering animals, maybe because it’s such a mystery. I can’t even guess why some animals become buds and others could care less about one another. But I know that the friendships that form never fail to surprise me.

Meet Lucky a.k.a. Captain Jack Johnson

Jack tree(Captain Jack Johnson)

Captain Jack, our newest foster dog, is going to have problems at the Farnival unless he learns how to be nicer to our three black cats. For the first time EVER, I witnessed a dog clamping onto Boo, the most athletic, vicious member of our feline posse.

Captain Jack grabbed Boo – a rangy, midnight-black assassin – off his perch on the deck’s railing and yanked him to the ground. I could tell by the second it took Boo to recover that he was as shocked as I was.

When I reached the scene, Boo had already leaped over the railing and sprinted full throttle across the front yard into the tree line.

Poor Captain Jack. He has no idea who he offended. Nobody fucks with the Boo.